The Drama of Tryouts


As youth athletes get older, say around 10 or 11 (although it could be much sooner depending on the sport), the chance to get involved on more elite teams comes around. These high-powered travel teams may play year round, travel each weekend to away tournaments, and compete against some of the best squads in the country. They have access to better coaches, one-on-one training sessions, and other “perks” that can put a child heads and shoulders above their friends that may only play sports casually. Many parents believe that getting on these teams are the first step in building a life-long athletic career for their child and will move heaven and earth to make it happen.  But, in order to get onto these high-powered teams youth athletes have to make it through tryouts. And that’s where things can get messy, especially when parents get involved.

Here are 3 things parents need to do during and after tryouts to keep the drama to a minimum:

Don’t let your child see how stressed you are.describe the image

First and foremost, your child’s performance on the field or mat has nothing to do with the quality of your parenting. Yes, we get invested in our child’s activities and are certainly nervous/excited for them before a big tryout, but if you start to fret and fuss and panic it’s only going to make your son/daughter fret and fuss and panic. They are probably plenty nervous on their own! No need to add your nerves to the fray. Don’t play the what-if game with yourself or your child because there are a million and one outcomes that could happen. That many options is going to drive you all crazy!

If you’re going to talk to the coach, choose your words carefully.

If your child doesn’t make the team, the first reaction of many parents is to want to know why. I’m sure we’ve all had the thought flash through our head; Why was my child not picked when clearly they are better/faster/stronger than that kid who did make it? Clearly there is a conspiracy going on! I think it’s safe to argue that most of the time there is no plot to keep your child off the team. But if your child wants to know what they can work on to make their next tryout go better by all means set up a time for THEM to talk to the coach. What skills do they need to work on? What does the coach want to see from them? Accusing the coach of deliberately sabotaging your child and keeping them off the team isn’t going to get them on the roster, and it might burn them for future tryouts.

Tryouts can be so full of drama and accusations that parents even start suing each other over the results;

… according to a copy of the filing, anonymous complaints sent to the village soccer organization had falsely alleged that Michael Winograd had “fixed” tryouts for the team and “engaged in misconduct relating to sportsmanship during the season.”

Even if Winograd had “fixed” the tryouts is a lawsuit really going to fix anything? If Winograd really did fix tryout and eventually gets removed from the league maybe, but in the meantime the whole league is getting dragged into this battle.

Keep your thoughts to yourself on the car ride home.

The car ride home from tryouts is not the time for you to analyze everything your child did. Nor is it the time to pick apart everyone else’s performance during the tryouts. What if you single out one player for their “bad” tryout and they make the team and your child doesn’t? What if your negative opinion of the coach and other players influence your child’s opinion of their (possibly) new team? The ride home should be a safe place for your child to vent their frustration or let out their excitement, with no color commentary from mom or dad. Just focus on how much you love to watch them play.

Have you experienced drama tryouts?  Share your thoughts!